2007-08 & All That…

After the 2007-08 financial crisis (aka ‘The Recession’!) the financial markets has become increasingly regulated. As a result, lawyers specialising in financial markets are now in demand as the financial sector gets to grips with its transformed world.

Why is it important? What does it involve?

Financial markets law is vast and covers asset finance, banking, capital markets, commodity and energy trading, financial services and market regulation, funds finance, Islamic finance, private funds, restructuring and insolvency, and retail structured products.

A financial markets lawyer will need to be clued up on all the complex factors of the finance world and should have a trained eye for detail as well as a penchant for mathematics. A top financial markets lawyer will look for new approaches to traditional products and will essentially act as a business adviser to their clients, so an ability to analyse and predict future market trends is an absolute must.

A financial markets lawyer must have an abundance of communication skills and an ability to convey complicated information in a straightforward manner.

Break it down for me a little bit!

Asset management involves liaising and advising with clients who have shares in a company, property investments, bonds and foreign exchange products. A lot of money is involved in asset management, so lawyers need to make sure their clients toe the line whilst making as much money as possible.

Other areas, such as capital markets, will see a lawyer act for financial institutions and corporates, advising them on the regulation changes (remember the post-recession legislation!) and understanding the clients’ position, having previous transactional experience and the ability to understand new regulation is a huge advantage. Commercial awareness, therefore, needs to be top-notch!

Speaking of regulation, financial services and market regulation would involve work for brokerage houses, investment exchanges, investment banks, commodity traders and other financial institutions. A financial markets lawyer would advise clients on the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000, strategic regulatory issues, investigations, disputes and disciplinary matters, derivatives and commodity trading and documentation.

Working in Islamic finance would involve advising Shariah-compliant financial institutions, fund managers, financial advisors and corporate.

Financial markets is a vast area of law and requires a thorough understanding of complex market data and client business needs and requirements. 

A day in the life of Lucia Barretto, a trainee at DLA Piper

Starting the day

The working day begins at 9am. Once I have arrived at the office, usually I allow myself 20 minutes to sort out any emails that have come in overnight and review my to-do list. This enables me to plan my day and organise tasks in order of priority and urgency. By around 10am I have already started to work. In my current seat with finance projects and restructuring, I work with a variety of members of the team on a number of matters.

Focusing on FinTech

A regular and ongoing task I have is project management for a developing area of the department: FinTech. The team includes partners, senior associates and associates, offering me a lot of exposure and interaction with colleagues of varying seniority. The task requires regular updating of documents, reviewing and communicating outstanding tasks to fellow team members, and is, therefore, a task I tend to review on a daily basis. As a growing area, being involved in the FinTech space requires regular review of news updates to keep a lookout for global regulatory updates and noteworthy developments.

Long-term tasks

I am occasionally involved in more long-term deals which will require more of my time to assist with drafting documents, proofreading, due diligence, research and liaising with counsel and other teams. These projects will differ greatly in terms of urgency, complexity, value and jurisdiction—all of which in turn impact how I may assist and what my working day entails. Aside from this, we regularly receive capacity requests for stand-alone tasks which we distribute among the trainees of the department according to capacity levels. The finance team also receives regular training sessions to break down complex finance structures and deals, as well as communicate important developments in legislation or procedural changes. My working day will therefore very much depend on whether I am working on a larger deal, the deal’s stage of completion, and the deadline for the matter. Throughout the day I will write and update my to-do list. At the end of the day, I review any matters on my list that have not been completed and ensure to put these at the top of my list for the following day.

Interview with Emmie Morris, a managing associate in banking at Simmons & Simmons.

Can you give us a brief overview of what financial markets law is all about?

Financial markets incorporate a whole range of financing work, which includes banking, real estate, tax, capital markets, asset finance and financial services. 

What are some of the daily tasks that you come across when working in this area of law?

As financial markets covers a broad spectrum, my focus is on banking law.  There’s rarely something I would call a typical day in a City law firm, but broadly my work would involve:

- Drafting facility agreements

- Advising lenders on commercial solutions to lending issues

- Drafting security documentation to support the credit for a lender

- Assisting my clients on structuring a financing transaction

- Working with my trainee on their development, looking at the work they are doing and how I can help them moving forward

- Analysing a corporate structure to ensure that the lender obtains the best and most suitable security package

Why did you choose to specialise/qualify in financial markets law?

I chose to qualify in banking because I liked the commerciality of the work.  You often work closely with the bank or financial institution and develop a close working relationship. Usually, the work is exciting; there is a common desire to work towards setting up financing with commercial solutions to legal issues. The work is varied and I frequently work with our international offices on cross border transactions. Any transaction will involve several members of the banking team and require input from other teams within Simmons (e.g. tax and real estate). I enjoy being part of a large team and I equally thrive under the pressure of working towards hard deadlines.

In your experience, what qualities or attributes does a lawyer need to work in financial markets law?

They need to have good analytical skills and understanding of the law, alongside a good understanding of the commercial and business needs of their clients. They need to be a team player and often put the team requirements above their own. Due to the deadlines and transactional nature of our work, you need to be able to work under pressure, manage your workload (as you will frequently be working on a number of transactions at the same time) and have good time management skills.

What kind of clients do you find yourself working with most?

I mostly work for banks, financial institutions and large corporate borrowers. We are on the panel for all UK clearing banks, so I am frequently working with the likes of Barclays Bank PLC, Lloyds and HSBC Bank plc.

How would you describe your workload? Do busy periods alternate with lulls or is it all go, go, go in the world of contract law?

I work in transactional banking and so your workload flow moves with the demands of the transaction. I am frequently on the go, particularly in the last few weeks of a transaction because the work will be demanding. If I am not working on deals, I will be usually be marketing - this can be anything from taking clients to see Beyoncé, a crazy golf competition, heading off to the Ashes, or running a training session.

How has this area of law transformed since the 2007-8 financial crisis?

I feel that the work is demanding and client expectations are higher. There’s a focus on costs and so a drive to be efficient while providing great client service.  There’s a focus on lender protection, alongside borrower flexibility, which is essential in this market.

Have you had any particularly memorable cases while working in financial markets law? Can you tell us a little bit more about one (confidentiality permitting, of course!)? 

I worked on a large cross-border, international financing deal over Christmas, which completed in the New Year.  The deal was time pressured and involved 10 different jurisdictions and required lawyers from corporate, capital markets and tax to be involved.  The deadline was one that was set by the market and required us to work around the clock.  It was exciting to be involved in such a large deal, with such a big team.  The client was fantastic and a borrower client which we still work with today.

What advice would you give to aspiring lawyers looking to eventually qualify in financial markets law? 

My advice is to enjoy their training contract and to aim to get as broad experience as possible in the department you would be working with as a financial markets lawyer.  This helps you because you get to know people in and around the firm and it helps you understand the wider part of a transaction that you may be working on.  When you work in a financial markets department try to obtain a wide variety of work for a similar reason.  It’s also important to keep up to date with what’s going on: business news, The Financial Times and information on the economy generally, are all great sources of further information.